A place and platform for students: Saitsa turns 100
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1922 marked not only the opening of Heritage Hall, but also the creation of the Students’ Association (today’s Saitsa) which was originally housed within that building. It began as an initiative to bring some levity to student life outside the workshops and classrooms by offering social, literary and athletic activities. Still going strong 100 years later, Saitsa has accomplished that and so much more for the many thousands of students it represents.
From lobbying government to student support and campus events, former Saitsa presidents Brigitte Matheson (BA ‘15) and Andre Mamprin (BA ‘89) reflect on the frolics and achievements during their time in office.
Writing, production, sound design, vocals and composition by Ron Tarrant.
Research and writing by Astrid Gagnier, Alyssa Athanasopoulos and Kris Ferguson
Photographs courtesy of SAIT Archives and Saitsa.
(Intro) DAVID ROSS: What is possible with a steadfast and bold vision. Welcome, welcome to SAIT!
(0:15) FEMALE VOICE OVER: A red brick and sandstone building looms large on Calgary's north hill, complete with twin towers, Gothic arches, and gargoyles. They've stood watch over the city for a hundred years. Now, this is Heritage Hall, the heart of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology known as SAIT and we are celebrating the lessons of the past 100 hundred years since students first walked through its doors. One hundred years of innovation, pushing boundaries and leading by example. One hundred years of getting SAIT students up to speed for a rapidly changing new world. Join us and learn from the stories whispered from these walls celebrating 100 years of Heritage Hall. What lessons would we learn if only these halls could talk?
(1:10) RON TARRANT: Artistic and imaginative, intellectual and creative mischievous, energetic, passionate, and yeah, a little bit crazy.
SAIT students really do come in all types of characters and personalities, but those adjectives are actually here to describe Heritage Hall, our hero. I mean, if this were a movie, Heritage Hall would probably be the main character, you know, like those films set in New York City claiming the Big Apple's famous backdrop is worthy of top billing. So, what's the moral of this story? Oh boy does Heritage Hall have character. Heritage Hall has personality!
Unavoidably built a hundred years ago when initially denied the chance to be Alberta's first university, losing out to Edmonton and thus helping fuel the ongoing battle of Alberta. (“Go Flames!”) Origin stories aside, Heritage Hall has also absorbed its character directly into the walls by osmosis, like a gelatinous blob, always watching, learning, growing, feeding. And thanks to its students and their association, Saitsa, who are also celebrating a hundred years — there's been a buffet of stories and entertainment that will continue to feed it for centuries to come. From high profile concerts, to a Saitsa outfitted golf cart, boardroom meetings, to lobbying government and everything in between, Heritage Hall has seen it all. It's just a matter of time before it climbs the flag pool, like Nyalll Tweedle and then celebrates by ordering a $2 hot dog. Right?
(2:39) BRIGITTE MATHESON: My name is Brigitte Matheson. I chose to attend SAIT, I really like that it was a two-year program. So, either way it was a great investment in my education, and when I stepped foot on campus, it was that infectious energy that the campus exuded. Again, it was a combination of the students there, the instructors and the passion that they had for their students, and then also the staff and the love that they had for the institution. Everyone that I met there loved SAIT. They loved being a part of that community and they were very proud to be there.
I was recruited by a friend of mine that I met through one of those clubs through the Student Petroleum Society. And this friend was actually in office at the time and encouraged me to run for the election. I figured, you know, I've got a passion for the students and for the school. So, I kind of took a bit of a leap outside of my comfort zone and said, you know, why, why not me? And, you know, it was one of those opportunities that found me. <Hey, there you are!> That I didn't know I needed and running for election was one of the best decisions I've made. Heritage Hall was always really fun to have meetings in because it was this old classic, iconic building. So, I remember doing dozens of SAIT committee meetings, being that student representation, as well as you know, my first meeting with, with Dr. Ross in his office and meeting all of the SAIT Executive, that was pretty surreal. And, you know, I felt quite a unique experience to have access to that caliber of individuals.
You know, when you look at Heritage Hall, there's the two towers. One of those towers is Dr. Ross' office. So, he's got the whole main setup, but then there's actually spiral staircase that goes up to a little loft. What an office! There are so many silly moments and that is the fun, and just the pure joy that comes with working for a student association. You get a bit of a stage almost to just let loose and have fun. And some of my, what compelled me to do it, I don't know, but we had a hot dog costume and a taco costume. There were a few instances, and I think there's some pictures floating around of me driving the Saitsa golf cart around campus in a hot dog costume, or, you know, a taco costume depending on the day, but it was pretty fun.
(4:58) ANDRE MAMPRIN: My name's Andre Mamprin and I was a former student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. One of the things that was a highlight of my time at SAIT was I became the president of SAIT's Students’ Union, which was a yearlong process. And it was probably one of the best times of my life, if I look back.
I went back to SAIT to get a business degree. I actually went on to a thing called Academic Council, and I don't know why or what compelled me to join that, but it was just a council that was an advisory board to the curriculum at SAIT.
I started taking on different projects and different things. And what I found is my marks were going up as I was getting busier. So, it was crazy. And then I finally decided I'm gonna run for Students' Union President. And I ran my campaign based on cartoons from Calvin and Hobbs, believe it or not, I won! I got elected. Kind of set me off on my journey.
Saitsa had many businesses. So, we had a newspaper, an award-winning newspaper at the time. If I recall back, it was probably four or five years in a row that we won awards for best college newspaper. And then one of the businesses was the largest Spartacus Lounge, which was the largest, one of the largest in North America. We had acts like Alice Cooper, 54/40 recalling back, Sass Jordan, and Alannah Myles. And of course, The Tragically Hip. So, there was a giant box and they opened the box and there was about a 25-foot giant python. We got to play with the python, but it was a part of the act of Alice Cooper.
It created a lot of value, I think for, for the student life at SAIT.
One of the things I'm most proud about was just the learning that I had with government relations. I had a lot of passion around student funding for education, and at the time, a lot of, there was a lot of cutbacks to funding for education and so on, connected with all of the presidents of the various colleges and universities in Alberta. And we started lobbying the government at the time for more funding. So, I learned a lot about that. And just how government works, government relations worked really well with them to be able to advance some of our agenda as student leaders. So that was the big picture.
Our campus businesses, we were able to grow the businesses on campus and end up putting a pretty substantial profit on the bottom line, at the end of my term, I should say.
(7:34)BRIGITTE MATHESON: The other piece with the people beyond the students, I would love to call out all of the employees that work for Saitsa. These student executives and, and the Board, they all get elected for a short term, and they all work really hard, but the backbone of the organization is its staff. It's full-time staff. It's an amazing, amazing team that people are passionate. They work so diligently, they work so hard, and everything comes down to what is best for our students.
(8:06) RON TARRANT: Continue the journey through SAIT's historical past visit sait.ca/alumni for more episodes.
Celebrate with us
Discover all the ways you can be a part of the centennial celebrations at sait.ca/HH100.